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What did Pope Francis say about the situation of the Catholic Church in the US?

Excerpts from a recent Q&A with Pope Francis were published on Monday where the lamented what he called a “reactionary” Catholic Church in the US.

Pope Francis says US Catholic Church has a "reactionary" element

Pope Francis sat down for a private conversation with members of the Jesuit Order earlier this month in Lisbon where he was attending the World Youth Day. Excerpts of the discussion were published on Monday in the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica in an article titles ‘The Water Has Been Agitated’.

During the question-and-answer portion of which, a Portuguese Jesuit who had spent a sabbatical in the United States saw many criticizing the pontiff’s leadership, including bishops that made him “suffer” at times. The Pontiff told him that “the situation is not easy” in the US and lamented what he called “a very strong reactionary attitude” within the Catholic Church in the United States.

He said that in some cases ideology has replaced faith and wanted to remind those people that “being backward-looking is useless.” As well that doctrine “progresses, expands and consolidates with time and becomes firmer, but is always progressing.”

You may be interested in: Why have millions of Americans stopped going to church?

Criticisms of Pope Francis by US Catholic Church conservatives

March this year marked Pope Francis’ tenth year as the bishop of Rome and head of the worldwide Catholic Church. Over that time he has received many criticisms from the conservative sectors of the Church who oppose reforms he has put into place. The Pope has tried to make the Church more welcoming and less judgmental.

Religious conservatives in the US have criticized Francis over his stance on a number of issues like climate change, immigration, overconsumption and social justice. As well as his opposition to the death penalty and calls for gun control. The pontiff for his part in the past has called it an “honor” to be criticized by conservative American Catholic groups.

What did Pope Francis say about the situation of the Catholic Church in the US?

Addressing the enquiry from the Portuguese Jesuit, Pope Francis said: “You have seen that in the United States the situation is not easy: there is a very strong reactionary attitude. It is organized and shapes the way people belong, even emotionally.”

“I would like to remind those people that indietrismo (being backward-looking) is useless and we need to understand that there is an appropriate evolution in the understanding of matters of faith and morals,” said the pontiff. He advised that the Church follow three criteria that were already present in the fifth century as indicated by Vincent of Lérins: “doctrine evolves ut annis consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate.”

“Doctrine also progresses, expands and consolidates with time and becomes firmer, but is always progressing. Change develops from the roots upward, growing in accord with these three criteria,” Pope Francis clarified.

The bishop of Rome gave as an example, that pontiffs centuries ago were tolerant of slavery but that the Church evolved.

“Those American groups you talk about, so closed, are isolating themselves,” said Pope Francis. “Instead of living by doctrine, by the true doctrine that always develops and bears fruit, they live by ideologies.”

“When you abandon doctrine in life to replace it with an ideology, you have lost, you have lost as in war,” he concluded.


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